Rapid Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 9

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The Galaxy Note series is the quintessential stylus-equipped smartphone. This time around, Samsung has significantly enhanced the S Pen via Bluetooth functionality. It also boasts an improved camera, more RAM and a bigger battery than its 2017 predecessor. But is it worth the eye-watering starting price of $1499? Let's find out.

What Is It?

The Galaxy Note 9 is a 6.4-inch Android smartphone that comes with an inbuilt 'S Pen' stylus. This is arguably its chief selling point and the main thing that separates it from the Samsung Galaxy S9+. (Indeed, most of the other specifications - including the camera lens, processor and screen resolution - are pretty much identical to the S9+.)

With that said, there are still some significant improvements under the hood, which we will get to in a moment. Here are the specifications:

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Operating System Android 8.1 (Oreo)
Display 6.4-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED, 2960x1440 (516ppi)
Body 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm, 201g (IP68)
Camera Rear: Dual Camera with Dual OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) - Wide-angle: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12MP AF, F1.5/F2.4, OIS - Telephoto: 12MP AF, F2.4, OIS - 2X optical zoom, up to 10X digital zoom Front: 8MP AF, F1.7
AP 10nm 64-bit Octa-core processor (Max. 2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz) 10nm 64-bit Octa-core processor (Max. 2.8 GHz + 1.7 GHz)
Memory 6GB RAM (LPDDR4), 128GB + MicroSD slot (up to 512GB) 8GB RAM (LPDDR4), 512GB + MicroSD slot (up to 512GB)
Sim Card Single: one Nano SIM and one MicroSD slot (up to 512GB)
Battery 4,000mAh Fast Charging compatible on wired and wireless Wired charging compatible with QC2.0 and AFC Wireless charging compatible with WPC and PMA
Network Enhanced 4X4 MIMO / CA, LAA, LTE Cat.18
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), VHT80 MU-MIMO, 1024QAM, Bluetooth® v 5.0 (LE up to 2Mbps), ANT+, USB Type-C, NFC, Location (GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou)
Payment NFC, MST
Sensors Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Heart Rate Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor, Iris Sensor, Pressure Sensor
Authentication Lock Type: Pattern, Pin, Password Biometric Lock Types: Iris Scanner, Fingerprint Scanner, Facial Recognition Intelligent scan: Combines iris scan and face recognition for convenient unlocking and in some cases provides enhanced security for certain authentication services
Audio MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, DSF, DFF, APE
Video MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM

And here's how the Note9 specs compare to the Samsung Galaxy S9+:

Galaxy Note9 Galaxy S9+
Operating System Android 8.1 (Oreo) Android 8 (Oreo)
Display 6.4-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED, 2960x1440 (516ppi) 6.2-inch Quad HD + Curved Super AMOLED, 18.5:9 (529ppi)
Body 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mmm, 201g, IP68 158.1mm x 73.8mm x 8.5mm, 189g, IP689
Camera Rear: Dual Camera with Dual OIS - Wide-angle: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12MP AF sensor (F1.5/F2.4) - Telephoto: 12MP AF (F2.4) - 2X optical zoom, up to 10X digital zoom Front: 8MP AF, F1.7 Rear: Dual Camera with Dual OIS - Wide-angle: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12MP AF sensor (F1.5/F2.4) - Telephoto: 12MP AF sensor (F2.4) Front: 8MP AF (F1.7)
AP 10nm 64-bit Octa-core processor (Max. 2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz) 10nm 64-bit Octa-core processor (Max. 2.8 GHz + 1.7 GHz) 10nm, 64-bit, Octa-core processor (2.7 GHz Quad + 1.7 GHz Quad) 10nm, 64-bit, Octa-core processor (2.8 GHz Quad + 1.7 GHz Quad)
Memory 6GB RAM (LPDDR4), 128GB + MicroSD slot (up to 512GB) 8GB RAM (LPDDR4), 512GB + MicroSD slot (up to 512GB) 6GB RAM 64GB/128GB/256GB + Micro SD Slot (upto 400GB)11
Sim Card Single SIM: Nano SIM Single SIM: Nano SIM
Battery 4,000mAh, Fast Charging compatible on wired and wireless Wired charging compatible with QC2.0 and AFC, Wireless charging compatible with WPC and PMA 3,500mAh, Fast Wired Charging compatible with QC 2.0, Fast Wireless Charging compatible with WPC and PMA
Network Enhanced 4x4 MIMO, 5CA, LAA, LTE Cat.18 Enhanced 4X4 MIMO / CA, LAA, LTE Cat.18
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), VHT80 MU-MIMO, 1024QAM, Bluetooth v 5.0 (LE up to 2Mbps), ANT+, USB Type-C, NFC, Location (GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou) Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), VHT80 MU-MIMO, 1024QAM, Bluetooth v 5.0 (LE up to 2Mbps), ANT+, USB type-C, NFC, Location (GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou)
Payment NFC, MST NFC, MST
Sensors Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Heart Rate Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor, Iris Sensor, Pressure Sensor Iris sensor, Pressure sensor, Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint sensor, Gyro sensor, Geomagnetic sensor, Hall sensor, HR sensor, Proximity sensor, RGB Light sensor
Authentication Lock Type: Pattern, Pin, Password. Biometric Lock Types: Iris Scanner, Fingerprint Scanner, Facial Recognition. Intelligent scan: Combines iris scan and face recognition for convenient unlocking and in some cases provides enhanced security for certain authentication services Lock type: pattern, PIN, password. Biometric lock type: iris scanner, fingerprint scanner, face recognition, Intelligent Scan: multimodal biometric authentication with iris scanning and face recognition
Audio MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, DSF, DFF, APE MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, APE, DSF, DFF
Video MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM
Price From $1499 From $1199

What's Good?

For the first time ever, Samsung has equipped the S-Pen with Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) which allows it to function like a tiny remote. While this might sound like a gimmick, it proves useful in a variety of everyday tasks, from flicking through gallery images to activating the camera's shutter during arm-length selfies.

Naturally, if you're a business user the stylus will also prove handy during PowerPoint presentations and the like. You can expect Samsung and its partners to take full advantage of this functionality via Android apps specifically designed for the Note 9 moving forward. Personally, I've never been a big fan of phone styluses, but the latest S-Pen has definitely made me a convert.

As mentioned, the Note 9 shares much in common with the Samsung Galaxy S9+. This is no bad thing, however - the S9+ is arguably the best smartphone 'all rounder' on the market. (Until now, that is.)

Samsung has added a few tweaks to the camera's inner workings, including a new AI-enhanced scene optimiser tool and superior image processing in low light situations. The end result is that the Note 9 tends to take better looking photos than the S9+, despite using very similar hardware. In other words, it's one of the best phone cameras that money can buy.

Special mention must go to the 4,000mAh fast-charging battery. Many phone manufacturers claim that their batteries provide a "full day" of usage, but in Samsung's case this boast is actually accurate. You can expect to receive around 15 hours of battery life between charges which is very impressive for a screen size this big. If you regularly use demanding applications such as 3D games and video players, all that extra juice is going to be a godsend.

Naturally, the phone also comes with all the premium bells and whistles you'd expect from a Samsung flagship, including water and dust resistance (IP68), iris and fingerprint bi-security options and compatibility with Samsung's DeX app which essentially turns the phone into a mobile PC and virtual desktop. (Handily, you no longer need a PSU-equipped dock to run DeX - a USB-C to HDMI adaptor will suffice.)

What's Bad?

That RRP is definitely tough to swallow - especially the 512GB model which will set you back almost $1800. By contrast, the excellent Samsung Galaxy S9+ can be snapped up for around $1000; and that price will continue to drop in the months to come.

Another pet peeve that may annoy some users is the physical button that launches Bixby, Samsung's Siri-style virtual assistant. It's easy to press this button by accident which necessitates a frantic cancellation of the app (the same issue is present on previous Galaxy phones.)

If you have difficulty remembering which buttons do what on your smartphone, this becomes irksome very quickly. Thankfully, it's possible to disable this button or make it launch something else.

Should You Buy It?

This one is for the Note fans. If you're crazy in love with your Note 8 (or are still clinging to the Note 5) you'll find a lot to love about the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. You should definitely consider it as your next smartphone.

Click here to buy the Samsung Galaxy Note9 direct from Samsung.

On the other hand, fair-weather Galaxy users would be better served by the Samsung Galaxy S9+ - it's a very similar phone for significantly less money. All you're really missing out on is the fancy stylus and some non-essential software improvements.

Of course, the upfront cost can be mitigated by bundling the Samsung Galaxy Note9 with a mobile phone contract. Here are some of the main payment plan options.

Planhacker: All The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Plans

The new Samsung Galaxy Note9 is available for pre-order and the local telcos have fronted up with the plans if you want to go that route and not buy the latest phablet from Samsung. Here's what they're offering.

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You can read the full review at Gizmodo, by clicking the link below.

Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 Is The Best Big Phone

Since the beginning, the big honking screens on Galaxy Note phones have been their most memorable characteristic. But as the rest of the smartphone world caught onto the jumbo display trend and screen sizes from various makers started to converge around six-inch displays, the throne on which Samsung’s Note phones lorded over lesser devices just didn’t have the same kind of sway. So now, the question is. What’s the purpose of a big arse flagship handset in 2018, especially one that starts at pearl-clutching price of $1,499?

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Rapid Reviews is Lifehacker's bite-sized buying advice on the latest technology products.


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